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Heer (Army) Divisional Organization

As of 1939 the 5 Panzer divisions varied somewhat in their composition. The 1st, 2d, and 3d had 1 tank and 1 motorized infantry brigade each; the 4th Panzer Division had a tank brigade and only a regiment of motorized infantry; the 5th had a tank brigade and 2 infantry regiments. In addition, each Panzer division had a motorized artillery regiment with 2 battalions of 105mm howitzers; a reconnaissance battalion with motorcycle and armored car companies; an antitank battalion with towed 37mm guns; an engineer battalion; a signal battalion; and rear trains and services. The authorized strength of the panzer division was approximately 12,000 officers and men, the variations in organization accounting for some differences in personnel strength from one Panzer division to the other.

Each Panzer division had about 300 tanks, including all 4 types then in service. The Mark I vehicle was 2-man tankette, weighed approximately 6 tons, and mounted 2 machine guns. The Mark II tank was a 3-man vehicle, weighed 111/2 tons, and mounted a 20mm gun; the Mark II and all heavier tanks had 1 or more machine guns in addition to their main armament. The Mark III model had a crew of 5, weighed approximately 2414 tons and had a 37mm gun. The heaviest tank of the period was the Mark IV, which weighed 26 tons, carried a crew of 5, and mounted a short-barreled 75mm gun. As planned, the 1st Panzer Division would have 56 Mark I, 78 Mark II, 112 Mark III, and 56 Mark IV tanks. The 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th Panzer Divisions would each have 124 Mark I, 138 Mark II, 20 Mark III, and 24 Mark IV tanks. This figure in tank strength, particularly for the Mark III, could not be reached in all cases by the time the Panzer divisions took the field against Poland.

The 4 light divisions also varied in their organization, e. g. the 1st Light Division had a motorized infantry brigade of 1 regiment and a motorcycle battalion; the 2d and 4th Light Divisions had 2 motorized infantry regiments each; and the 3d Light Division had a motorized infantry regiment and a motorcycle battalion. Each of the light divisions had an organic light tank battalion, and the 1st Light Division had an organic tank regiment. The 1st Light Division had a reconnaissance battalion, while the 2d, 3d, and 4th Light Divisions had reconnaissance regiments. The division artillery of the light divisions was the same as that of the Panzer divisions, i. e. 2 light battalions of towed howitzers. Engineer, signal, and other normal attachments were similar to those of the infantry and Panzer divisions; all were motorized. The strength of the light division was approximately 11,000 officers and men.

The 35 active infantry divisions had 3 infantry regiments of 3 battalions, a cannon company, and an antitank company each. The battalions were 4-company organizations, with the fourth, eighth, and 12th companies (companies were numbered 1 through 14 in the regiment) filling the role of heavy weapons companies in the comparable United States Army organization. The line (rifle) companies had a total of 9 light and 2 heavy machine guns and 3 light (50mm) mortars each; the heavy weapons companies, 8 heavy machine guns and six 81mm mortars each. As a matter of interest, the light and heavy machine gun were the same air-cooled weapon, model of 1934. With the bipod mount the MG 34, as it was known, was considered a light machine gun; with the tripod mount, it became a heavy machine gun. All transportation for the rifle and heavy weapons companies was horsedrawn. The cannon company had 6 light (75mm) and 2 heavy (150mm) infantry howitzers. The antitank company had twelve 37mm towed guns and was the only completely motorized unit of the regiment. The reserve divisions were organized in similar fashion but their regiments lacked heavy infantry howitzers and the third and fourth wave divisions had obsolete machine guns from World War I.

The artillery element of the active infantry division was a mixed regiment of 3 light and 1 medium battalions, equipped with 105mm and 150mm howitzers, and an observation battalion. None of the reserve divisions had an observation battalion, and most of their firing battalions had obsolete artillery pieces from World War I.

Other divisional units for both active and reserve infantry divisions were a reconnaissance battalion; an antitank battalion with 37mm guns; an engineer battalion; a signal battalion; and rear trains and services. The total strength authorized the active infantry division was 17,875 officers and men. Wave II and IV divisions were smaller by 1,000 to 2,000 men or more, and Wave III divisions larger by approximately 600 men.

The 4 motorized infantry divisions were smaller than the active standard infantry divisions by approximately 1,400 men. Each of the motorized infantry divisions comprised 3 infantry regiments and was organized much as a standard division except that all elements of the division were transported by motor vehicle.

The 3 mountain divisions resembled the standard infantry divisions but were not organized uniformly. The 1st Mountain Division had 3 infantry regiments and 4 gun battalions in its artillery regiment; the 2d and 3d Mountain Divisions had only 2 regiments of infantry and 3 battalions of artillery apiece. The light mountain artillery battalions were equipped with 75mm pack guns, which could be dismantled and carried by mules, and the medium artillery battalions were equipped with 150mm howitzers of the type used by the infantry divisions. The authorized strength of the mountain division was approximately 17,000 officers and men, though the 1st Mountain Division for a time had a total strength of over 24,000 men.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:54:13 ZULU